Should Israel be treated as Iraq has been?
There has been enough said about this war and I hesitate to add to it but my problem is that, despite all that has been said, I am still unsure as to why we are there. Without doubt our service men and women have done a brilliant job, as always and, whilst not wishing to understate the equally outstanding efforts of the Americans, I like to think that our people tried that little bit harder to avoid unnecessary killing, especially of civilians, and were a little less gung-ho and trigger happy. I detest the phrase 'friendly fire' but I don't think there were many Americans killed by Brits.
Of course we are all pleased to see the overthrow of a tyrannical dictator, it was very satisfying to see the apparent joy on the faces of some Iraqis when the Brits arrived in Basra and the Yanks arrived in Baghdad. For sure there are many Sunni Muslims and Kurds who are genuinely pleased as well as many other Iraqis who had suffered under the regime and there are no doubt others who have decided that it is in their best interest to welcome the invaders, but it is evident also that there are many other Iraqis much less pleased and many relatives of the many thousands of civilians and Iraqi soldiers that have been killed, or seriously wounded, who are devastated. Many of those soldiers of Saddam were conscripts forced to fight and understandably they have been killed without mercy, but will their wives, mothers and children understand?
So is that why we went to war, to overthrow the tyrant? Why that tyrant? Which tyrant shall we overthrow next? Tony Blair told us that that particular tyrant was a threat to us, to the region and the world with his weapons of mass destruction and his powerful army. He and George Bush actually tried to draw a parallel with the situation with regard to Hitler in 1938. To do so demonstrates an appalling ignorance of history, is an illustration of their stupidity or is evidence of their opinion of our gullibility. Where are the weapons of mass destruction? Why didn't they let the inspectors go on looking, as the rest of the UN wanted, they were doing a good job? At the time of writing the allies have not found any such weapons. No doubt they will, cynic that I am, the Americans cannot afford not to find any so I am sure they will, but it is clear now just what a threat Saddam really was with his forty year old obsolete Russian tanks. So I remain puzzled as to exactly what were the motives that drove George Bush to act and even more puzzled as to Tony Blair's motives in going along with him. Was it all altruism, just to free the Iraqis from oppression? Who can be so naive as to believe that?
The real threat to stability and peace in the Middle East was never Saddam it was the country that really does have weapons of mass destruction and a modern well-equipped military force. I refer of course to Israel. We are told that the difference is that Israel is a democracy, as if that guarantees that they will not act in a belligerent manner. Judging by the actions of the largest most powerful democratic state in the world that is no guarantee.
Led by a leader who is judged by the international court to be a war criminal, who was judged guilty by an Israeli court of being complicit in the massacre of Palestinian refugees in the refugee camps of Sabra and Chatila in the Lebanon, Israel has illegally occupied large parts of Palestine. With American financial support and modern weaponry Israel can do just about whatever they please, develop stock piles of nuclear weapons, build illegal settlements in Palestinian land, destroy Palestinian businesses and generally behave like the worst oppressive occupying force we have seen in decades. They execute without trial, shoot stonethrowing children from inside their armoured vehicles, bulldoze houses with or without occupants, even driving a bulldozer over a young female American peace protester who dared to stand in the way. Even the Chinese refused to drive their tank over a protester in Tiannamen Square. It is interesting to contrast the behaviour of the Israelis with our own; following 'Bloody Sunday' in Ulster there has been numerous enquiries into the incident, the arguments still rage twenty years on. In Palestine 'Bloody Sundays' are an almost daily occurrence and nobody cares.
At the start of the war I was amazed to hear George Bush threaten that war crimes performed by Iraqis will be prosecuted and those responsible punished. A bit rich when the USA is opposed to an International Criminal Court and will not allow its soldiers to be tried by such a court for war crimes. Neither does he seem keen to ensure that Sharon is punished for those crimes for which he has already been found guilty.
George Bush and Tony Blair went to war on the flimsy justification of UN Resolution 1441, they did not dare seek approval from the UN Security Council because they knew they would not get it. They criticised France for threatening to use their Veto and accused them of wrecking the United Nations. This was a bit rich also, the USA has used its Veto 60 times, many of those instances were to block attempts by the UN to bring Israel to heel. Israel has been in defiance of the UN for years. The following resolutions have been made by the UN in relation to Israel:
1967 Res. 242 Called for Israel's withdrawal from occupied territories. The Israelis are still there.
1980 Res. 465 Demanded the dismantling of Israeli settlements in occupied territories. The Israelis continue to build new settlements and expand existing ones.
1981 Res. 487 Called upon Israel to place its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards. Israel has yet to respond.
2000 Res. 1322 Called upon Israel to abide by the fourth Geneva Convention on protection of civilians. Israel continues to mount attacks on Palestinian civilians.
2002 Res. 1435 Demands the expeditious withdrawal of Israeli occupying forces to the positions held prior to September 2000 and for the cessation of all acts of violence. Most Palestinian cities are still under Israeli occupation and curfew.
1948 Res. 194. Gave the right of Palestinian refugees the right of return. Nothing has been done about this although the UN has reaffirmed this resolution no fewer than 135 times.
Any proposals to take action to force Israel to comply with any of these resolutions have been blocked by the US. Yet Tony Blair asked "If we fail to get Saddam to comply with Resolution 1441 and disarm him, where does that leave the authority of the UN?" The excuse is sometimes given that these resolutions were not made under Chapter 7, which apparently makes them mandatory, whereas Res. 1441 was. Certainly Res. 194 was under Chapter 7 rules, however, but has been ignored by Israel for almost 60 years. The reason that the other resolutions are not under Chapter 7 is because the USA has blocked moves to make them so.
It is difficult to understand the position of America in relation to Israel. They promise that they will back peace plans, usually at a time when they themselves are seeking support for something, but that backing never materialises. Yet the situation in Palestine and America's support for Israel is the basic cause of the unrest in the middle east, Arab nations are incensed by the injustice and the hypocrisy, it is the underlying cause of terrorism. The attack on the twin towers was a result of the US support for Israel, but the Americans do not seem to see this. They tried to blame Saddam, but there has been no evidence published to link him with Osama Bin Laden, it seems like just another excuse for the war.
Whilst, at this time, the war is almost over the problems that it will generate are not. Iraq is a shambles and there is bound to be a great deal of resentment among Arab nations that nothing was done in the early stages to maintain law and order, there is also a smouldering resentment at the deaths of many innocents in Iraq and the humiliation of an Arab nation. Some Arabs will inevitably seek revenge in the only way open to them, that is by terrorism. Turkey is anxious about the Kurds, will the Americans do the dirty on the Kurds now that they have made use of them in defeating Iraq? The whole new situation in the Arab world is not one that will help to establish peace, perhaps that is the aim of the US. They are now making threatening noises towards Iran and Syria, why? Maybe Iraq will settle down quickly under an American puppet government but I see no chance for peace in the region until the US changes its policies.
Tony Blair could redeem himself by settling his differences with President Chirac and the other EU leaders and really fighting for a just peace in the Middle East that includes a fully independent Palestine state, free of interference from Israel. He could redeem himself, but I don't imagine he will.